Title: The End Is Where We Start From
Pairings: Ianto/Jack, Gwen/Rhys, mentions of Ianto/others, Jack/others
Summary: Jack chose a new beginning after Toshiko and Owen's deaths; one that didn't include Ianto or Torchwood. Ten years later, Ianto has moved on. Really.
Warnings (if any): AU after 'Exit Wounds'. Some sexual content. Some language.
Total word count: 9280
Original prompt number: #9
Author's notes: Written for bbc_medley. I'd never heard 'Diamonds and Rust' before, but loved it on first listen. I read some background about it and this idea came along. It was meant to be a couple of thousand words, but the boys had their own agenda. I hope the angst isn't too excessive. Thank you, D, for the advice and encouragement.
Disclaimer: This story/artwork is based on characters and situations created and owned by the BBC. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Ianto Jones sipped his coffee, hiding his wince at the bitter, grainy taste from the eager new trainee: a scrawny, twenty-year-old trainee with halitosis and an unfortunate love of non-breathable fabrics despite the wet heat that made the air feel thick and heavy. Ianto tried to breathe sparingly and through his mouth; he wasn't sure he could take the multi-pronged attack on his senses this early in the day.
'Thank you, Geoff,' he said, quickly turning towards his desk in an unmistakable gesture of dismissal. Geoff scampered away, and Ianto inhaled deeply, screwing up his nose when the lingering odour of stale sweat tickled his nostrils. He slid open his window then reclined in his indulgent leather chair to enjoy the light breeze that picked up strands of his damp hair and cooled the sheen of sweat slicking his forehead.
He stretched his legs out under his desk, wincing a little at the dull ache in his left knee. The bloody humidity played havoc with his joints this time of year. His knees were the knees of a man ten years his senior according to his doctor; the legacy of spending too much time running around Cardiff after aliens, and treading up and down stairs in a damp underground hideaway. (He preferred not to think about how much time he'd spent on his knees in that same hideaway because that encouraged reminiscing about the cock that had been shoved in his mouth or up his arse whilst his knees were pressing painfully into the floor, and that invariably led to thoughts of the man said cock was attached to... It was a hornet's nest best left unpoked.)
Ianto yawned and turned to stare out the window at the bright blue sky. He ignored the twinge in his chest when twinkling eyes the very same colour of the northern Queensland sky immediately came to mind. Even after ten years, after relocating halfway around the globe, there were reminders of his past everywhere he looked. Ianto focused on a cotton candy cloud as it drifted across the sky as memories assailed him.
Tosh and Owen's deaths.
Gwen's tears and her proclamation that she didn't think she could do it anymore.
Jack's words – 'The end is where we start from' – which had sounded so reassuring in the moment, but when Gwen moved away, Ianto had seen the shadows in Jack's eyes, had seen the distance he'd already begun to put between himself and what remained of his team, and he knew.
Jack was already gone.
Gwen hadn't seen it and had expected Jack to be her immovable mountain, her sun and her moon, her constant. Her grief at losing him to the stars - coming so closely on the heels of losing Tosh and Owen - was all-consuming, and the usually ferociously determined woman clung desperately to the ones she had left for support and reassurance. Rhys was happy to provide the strength his wife needed, but Ianto – who knew Jack's faults, who, after Jack's first disappearance, had never again allowed the other man to become his world – refused to let Gwen's sorrow and Jack's cowardice drag him under as well.
So, he had freed Myfanwy to torment the sheep of the Brecon Beacons and sent Janet back to the sewers before turning the Hub over to UNIT and a fretful Martha Jones. Ianto's last act as a Torchwood operative was to kiss a teary Gwen goodbye and wish her well before he followed Jack's lead and left Cardiff in his dust.
Torchwood might have crushed his soul, but it had been good to his wallet so he took some time off before he started contemplating what he was going to do with the rest of his suddenly extended life. He made his way through Europe – loitering for several months in Italy when he discovered the Italian people were every bit as passionate as rumoured – then spent a little time in the USA before finding himself on a plane to Australia.
After the cloying pollution and oppressive crowding in New York, he'd felt exposed and vulnerable when he finally stepped off the domestic flight he'd taken from Brisbane to Mackay. He could taste the tang of salt in the air, feel the sticky cling of it on his sun-warmed skin, so he headed East until he hit the ocean. As he stood there on the heated sand, shoes in his hands, watching the pink-and-purple streaked sky darken into star-studded black, he smiled.
It was beautiful. It was freeing. It was home.
He'd settled in a small but busy tourist town on the coast and found regular work as a barista. Twelve months later, the opportunity arose for him to buy his own coffee shop and - with a well-intact sense of irony that Jack's frequent predictions that Ianto would one day own a coffee franchise had come true – he jumped at it. One shop quickly morphed into two then three until, seven years later, he owned a chain of stores scattered liberally throughout his adopted home state.
Ianto was thirty-five now, successful, still had all his hair – albeit a little grey at the temples – and his figure, and was getting regular sex from a variety of sources who claimed to 'adore' his accent, despite the fact it had dulled under the onslaught of the blunt vowels of his co-workers. He was more relaxed, contented, and tanned than he'd ever been before. Life was good, and that really should have been a warning of impending upheaval. He should have predicted that – as he sat contemplating his satisfaction with his current circumstances – the door would open and allow his past to stride arrogantly on through because his life so far had just been one massive fuck over after another at the hands of the Gods.
I must be slipping, he mused as a tall, blue-eyed figure appeared in the doorway. The familiar blue coat was gone, as were the braces, and Ianto was smugly pleased to note a few grey hairs glinting in the sunshine that poured through the window, but Jack Harkness still managed to fill up an entire room with the force of his smile.
'Ianto Jones,' he grinned, holding his arms out either side of his body as if he were waiting for Ianto to run into them.
At first, Ianto could only stare at him, forcing back everything he'd wanted to say-sob-scream at the other man for the last decade, then he pulled his composure around him like a shield and turned to his personal assistant, Jean, whose usual unflustered countenance had crumbled under the weight of the Harkness charm.
'Did Captain Harkness...' He turned to Jack whose smile was wavering. 'I'm assuming you still use that name?' At Jack's nod, Ianto glanced back at the flushed woman. 'Did Captain Harkness have an appointment I wasn't made aware of?'
Jean regained some common sense, her green eyes darting from Ianto to Jack then back again. 'No,' she admitted, worry creasing her brow. 'I'm sorry, Mr Jones. I don't know...'
Ianto shook his head. 'Don't worry about it,' he said resignedly, standing slowly and buttoning his jacket. 'I doubt you could have stopped him even if you'd had the wherewithal to try. You can leave us.'
Jean slunk out the door, closing it softly behind her. Ianto inhaled deeply, suddenly feeling like he did the very first time he was alone with Jack – excited, invigorated, terrified. 'Hello, Jack.'
The grin flashed at full strength again. 'You look good,' Jack said, eyes roaming over Ianto's body with a familiar hunger that sparked a visceral response. Ianto cursed the man and his potent pheromones for what had to be the millionth time and edged around his desk. Jack's hand twitched noticeably as Ianto approached. Ianto glared at him as he strode past to open the door, and instead of reaching for him as Ianto suspected was the plan, Jack slipped both hands into his trouser pockets.
'Ianto, we...' Jack said as Ianto stared pointedly at the open door, but Ianto made an impatient noise and interrupted him.
'We aren't doing this here,' Ianto told him, nodding his head towards the reception area. 'After you, sir.'
Jack started, his eyes wide as a grin began to blossom. 'Sir,' he said with an air of fond reminiscence that made Ianto wonder just how long Jack had been gone. 'I've missed that.'
'Don't get used to it,' Ianto said bluntly. 'That one's for old time's sake. Now, are you coming or not?'
Jack inclined his head and walked past Ianto, throwing Jean a wink as he headed for the exit. Ianto ignored Jean's giggle and the sudden flash of colour in her cheeks and instructed her to cancel everything on his schedule for the rest of the day before he followed Jack.
Their kiss was raw and needy as they burst through the door of Ianto's house, hands scrambling at clothes, ripping-tearing-pulling at the barriers between them until there was nothing but skin and sweat and ten years of resentment and anger and secrets. They crashed to the floor, Ianto groaning in pain as his hip took the brunt of the impact. He could feel Jack's cock hard against his thigh, already leaking pre-come and leaving a damp trail across Ianto's skin as Jack rutted against him.
'Missed this,' Jack mumbled into Ianto's throat, breath hot and lies cold on Ianto's skin. Ianto growled and twined his fingers in Jack's hair, jerking hard. Jack exhaled sharply as his head snapped up and back then hissed when Ianto's teeth sank into the flesh under his chin.
'Liar,' Ianto whispered, the word coarse and bereft of any of the affection it held a decade ago when he used to kiss it into Jack's skin. His hand snaked between them and grasped Jack's shaft tightly, twisting and pumping fast and rough. Jack panted into Ianto's mouth as he claimed his lips again in a crushing kiss, his fingers closing around Ianto's cock and lining it up with his own. He pushed Ianto's hand away, squeezing their erections together with one of the big, calloused hands Ianto still dreamed about. Ianto whimpered, arching up into Jack's touch, and heard Jack echo the desperate sound.
Jack pumped his fist, rubbing his thumb firmly over their side-by-side glans, gathering their combined pre-come before snapping his wrist savagely. Ianto swore and clutched at Jack's arse, fingers digging into the fleshy buttock, thumb delving into the crease to thumb Jack's hole. Jack bucked his hips, shouting out a wordless cry as his hand picked up its pace.
'Come on, you bastard,' Ianto muttered, pushing the tip of his dry thumb inside Jack,his other hand sliding between them to tug at Jack's balls.
Jack swore – loudly – and, on his next upstroke, dragged a blunt fingernail over Ianto's slit. Ianto felt his orgasm coalescing in his balls, felt Jack's sac draw up and tighten, and then he was coming, brain whiting out as his breath caught and held in his chest. Only Jack could make him feel an orgasm in every fucking cell of his body. Only Jack could make him come and come and come until the pleasure morphed into something bordering pain and he couldn't remember his own name.
Damn him to hell.
Jack was a dead weight on his chest when Ianto finally began to come back into himself, and he shoved at him with a grunt. 'Get off,' he complained, rolling a groaning Jack to the side and sitting up. He ran his hands through his hair, frowning as he tried to smooth the mess Jack had made, then pushed himself to his feet.
'Up,' he said shortly, kicking Jack's thigh as he fastened his trousers. He grimaced at the mess on his chest before he bent and scooped up Jack's white undershirt, taking an obscene amount of pleasure in wiping off their combined come with the soft fabric. He chanced a glance at a still-prone Jack, who was staring up at Ianto with a half-smirk on his face. Ianto felt a jolt of anger – both at himself and the smug arsehole on his hall floor – and threw the shirt at Jack's head. 'Let yourself out when you're dressed.'
'What? No post-coital snuggling?' Jack asked, voice muffled. He whipped the shirt off his face and grinned up at Ianto. 'You used to be a lot more cuddly.'
'Yeah, well,' Ianto mumbled as he padded towards the kitchen for a bottle of water. 'I used to be a lot of things I'm not now.' He looked over his shoulder at Jack, who had rolled onto his stomach to watch Ianto's departure. 'Including in love with you. Now either tell me what the hell you want or fuck off.'
He didn't wait for an answer, yanking open the fridge door and rummaging through the well-stocked shelves for water. He cracked the safety seal and threw the lid into the stainless steel sink before gulping down half the bottle in three long pulls. He felt a few escaping drops of chilled water trickle over his chin and down his throat, and he quickly caught them with his forearm. He closed his eyes and held the bottle to his brow, wishing the hot stab of regret in his gut could be eased by the cold liquid as easily as his thirst. The condensation on the sides of the bottle dampened his sweat-salty skin and dripped over the slope of his nose. He brushed the droplet away then sighed, tilting his head towards the doorway.
'You could never sneak up on me at the Hub,' he said wearily, memories of stale air, dank corridors, and musty archives that smelled of old paper rushing back. 'You've little chance of doing it in my own home.'
'You aren't happy to see me.'
Ianto snorted and quickly gulped down the last of the water. 'No,' he said when he'd finished. He dropped the bottle in the recycling bin and leaned against the counter, avoiding looking directly at Jack. 'It's been ten years, Jack.'
Jack was silent for a long, tension-filled moment then, in a low whisper... 'That long?'
Ianto crossed his arms over his chest, his shirt still gaping open as he frowned down at his feet. 'How long has it been for you?'
'Not sure. Maybe three Earth years. Give or take a few months.' He cleared his throat and shook his head. 'The Doctor's timing still leaves a lot to be desired. I meant to be back sooner rather than later. Much sooner. Ten years... God.'
There was another weighty silence then Jack murmured, 'I really have missed you.'
Ianto glanced up at him to check his sincerity then quickly looked back down at his socked feet when he saw the honest remorse written all over Jack's face. 'Must have been a shock then,' he said, attempting nonchalance. He watched his toes as he wriggled them against the slick tile. 'To see how much Gwen and I have aged.'
He caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. Cautiously, he looked over and saw Jack leaning against the door frame, hands in the pockets of his undone trousers. Ianto's gaze caught on the tight curls that thickened as they trailed from his navel to his groin then he shook himself as Jack spoke.
'Haven't seen Gwen,' he said soberly, tilting his head back and staring at Ianto through hooded eyes. 'Tracked you down first.'
'Horny, were you?'
'What do you want, Jack?' Ianto snapped, reaching the end of his tether. 'Just cut the crap and tell me why you're here.'
Jack hesitated then said, 'I wanted to see you, see how you were.'
'Nostalgia?' Ianto asked scornfully. 'You've become one of those old men that sit around reminiscing about the good old days?'
'Hey, enough of the old, thank you,' Jack said with an exaggerated pout, but Ianto just continued to stare at him, heart hardened and face blank. Jack sighed and looked down at the floor, his big toe following the line of grout between the kitchen tiles.
'I couldn't shake you,' he said, voice low and all traces of levity gone. 'I've traveled around the universe, fucked goddesses, and royalty, and men and women so powerful they could bring about the end of entire planets with one single word...' He looked up, face weary and unsure, but more open and honest than Ianto had ever seen. 'And I couldn't get you out of my head.'
'Guilt?' Ianto said, raising an eyebrow, refusing to acknowledge the happy wriggle of what felt a lot like hope inside him. 'How unlike you.'
Jack's brow creased and his eyes were pained as he gazed at Ianto. 'It wasn't guilt.'
Ianto made a sceptical noise in his throat and turned his back on the other man, staring out the window at the ocean in the distance, sparkling a sapphire blue against an azure sky. He concentrated on his breathing – in and out, slow and steady – instead of the frantic pounding of his traitorous heart that wanted nothing more than to believe there was something other than selfishness in Jack's motives. He could hear Jack breathing, could hear the tiny hitch in each inhalation, and his skin warmed and vibrated with energy and desire as the other man moved closer.
'The Doctor's coming back for me in a day or so.'
The warmth vanished and an icy flush washed over Ianto. 'So, time enough to get some 'for old time's sake' fucking in before you go,' he said coolly. 'I'm an intergalatic booty call. Classy.'
Jack ignored Ianto's acerbic tone. 'Whether I go with him or stay here... that's up to you.'
Ianto's stomach flipped. He didn't want this. He didn't want to get his body or his heart all tangled up with Jack again. He couldn't. 'No,' he said shortly.
'Yes,' Jack insisted, so close now Ianto could feel his breath on his neck. 'That's why I've come back. I want to be with you, Ianto. I want to make up for the time we've lost.'
Ianto's head snapped around and he snarled, 'You are such a...' He cut himself off, determined not to let Jack get under his skin again. He tightened his lips and just shook his head. 'You should go.'
'I'm not going anywhere,' Jack said, folding his arms stubbornly over his chest. 'Not without you.'
'Well, I'm not going anywhere with you.'
'Then I'll stay right here. I'm not leaving you again, Ianto.'
Ianto snorted contemptuously. 'You'd live here?' At Jack's nod, he laughed in disbelief. 'You're going to live here. With me. Isn't that a little... domestic? Safe? Lacking challenge and adrenaline and many-armed aliens to shag?'
Jack shrugged. 'It's nice here. I could stand living in paradise.' He smiled sweetly, intimately at Ianto. 'And I'm not talking about the view.'
Ianto felt the flush crawling along his cheekbones and silently cursed the involuntary reaction to Jack's flattery. 'You couldn't do it.'
'I've done it before.'
'And you left!' Jack winced and opened his mouth, but Ianto got in first. 'You'd be bored to tears in a month, Jack. I can't do this with you again. I won't.'
He stormed past Jack, down the hall and flung open the front door. 'Get out,' he said firmly when Jack slowly moved out of the kitchen.
'Get. Out. Jack.'
'We could be happy here together, Ianto.'
'There is no 'we'. There is you and there is me, but there was never nor will there be a 'we'.'
Jack continued on as if Ianto hadn't just spoken. 'Or you could come traveling with me and the Doctor.'
Ianto narrowed his eyes, his building tirade dying on his tongue. 'What?'
'You could come with me and I'll show you what's really out there. Not just the shit we used to get through the Rift, but the good stuff.' He approached Ianto, slowly, step by step, talking the whole way. 'We can swim in the sea at Tyris Five – the water is like silk against your skin. Or visit Nindon Psi and watch the sky explode with colour when the sun sets – you've never seen colours like these on Earth, Ianto. Or we could make love in the grass at Lyras, under the three moons.'
Jack hesitated then said softly, 'Or I could take you to a planet with two suns. Where the days are long and hot and the night's respite short. It's a desert planet and there isn't much to see there, but it's my home. It's Boeshane, and I'd really like for you to see it.'
Ianto stared at him, hope and regret twisting in his chest. When he was falling in love with Jack all those years ago, he would have given anything – anything – to hear that invitation, spoken with such sincerity. That was ten years ago. Ten years! And yet, still that hope seeped into his skin, spreading through his body with every beat of his heart until he could feel it in every single cell, every molecule.
And he hated himself for it.
'Get out,' he choked out, the order weak and insubstantial. He cleared his throat, willing some backbone into his voice. 'Get out. You're too late.'
'Get the fuck out!'
'Okay,' Jack said, backing off with his hands held out in the international gesture for surrender. 'Okay, I'll go.'
Ianto was breathing heavily as he leaned against the wall. He closed his eyes, suddenly exhausted, and listened to Jack finish dressing. This is the right thing to do. You can't trust him not to break your heart.
Jack's scent preceded him and Ianto opened his eyes. He found himself staring directly at Jack, the man's face shining with determination. 'I've got a couple of days before the Doctor comes back,' he said, voice light but drenched with meaning. 'I think some time spent lying around a beach and drinking great coffee is just the break I need.'
Ianto turned his back on him, staring out the open door. He heard Jack sigh softly then there was a rustle of clothing, a low, 'I'll be seeing you, Ianto,' and he was gone.
Ianto's world felt colder already.
Just knowing Jack was in town was enough to put Ianto on edge. He was reticent all the next morning, snappish when an answer was required, and furious with himself when he realised he was looking for Jack around every corner. So he felt equal parts relief and irritation when Jack finally turned up just after one o'clock with a picnic basket and enthused, 'I'm taking you to the beach. I can't believe we lived in Cardiff so long and never went together.'
'We have been to the beach together before,' Ianto said testily, even as he put his desk to rights and diverted his office line to his mobile. 'It was a disaster.'
A wrinkle appeared between Jack's eyes as he thought then a smile lit his face. Ianto groaned at the sight of the smile that never failed to get an ingrained response from his capricious body.
'Oh, yeah. The Babaloo,' Jack recalled, a sentimental glint in his eye. 'That wasn't so bad.'
'You're not the one that ended up soaked on the coldest day in Cardiff's history.'
Jack bumped their shoulders together and slipped his hand into Ianto's. 'You're exaggerating and, anyway, it's warm here,' he said reassuringly. 'And I'm sure Babaloos prefer cold rather than tropical waters.'
'Comforting,' Ianto said dryly, tugging his hand out of Jack's grasp and heading for the door. 'I don't suppose you'll leave if I ask you to?'
'You suppose correctly.'
'Not even if I ask nicely?'
'I've always approved of your manners, but, sorry, no.'
Ianto sighed and quickly shucked his jacket and tie, hanging them on a hook behind the door. 'Alright, then,' he said, flicking open the first two buttons of his shirt one-handed as he opened the door with the other. 'Let's get this over with.'
He ignored the flush of heat Jack's approving glance at the newly exposed skin caused and told Jean she could contact his mobile if he was needed, rolling his eyes at her Harkness-induced blush as he went.
'I can see why you settled here,' Jack said, lying back on his elbows amidst the remains of their lunch. 'It's stunning.'
'It is,' Ianto agreed, stretching out beside him. Digging his toes into the warm sand, he squinted out over the sparkling ocean, watching the waves crest and crash against the sand and letting the hypnotic susurrus calm his frayed nerves.
Jack hadn't stopped rambling since they'd left Ianto's office - even managing to talk through mouthfuls of bread and chicken, much to Ianto's very vocal disgust. His incessant chatter had worked away at Ianto's self-control, which he was now holding onto by a increasingly fragile thread. Ianto exhaled slowly and closed his eyes, turning his face up to the sun as the beautiful late spring day worked its magic.
'Are you happy here?'
There was a tension underlying the soft tone, and Ianto opened his eyes, peering at Jack blearily through the bright glare as he readjusted to the light. 'I wouldn't stay unless I was,' he replied.
Jack nodded absently, fingers picking at a loose thread in the blanket beneath them. 'You... you were happy in Cardiff, though, weren't you? With Torchwood?'
The 'with me' was unspoken but lingered in the air around them as if the words had been shouted out. Ianto watched as Jack fidgeted under his scrutiny. Part of him wanted to soothe him, to hold him and ease his uncertainty. The other – larger – part of him, though, was still pretty damn pissed off, apparently.
'Yes, you made me happy, Jack,' he said, 'and then you left with your Doctor. You came back and made me happy again then you left once more. I'm sensing a pattern here – just when I need you the most, you run.' He exhaled sharply through his nose. 'If I was a psychologist, I'd have a field day with my abandonment issues.'
'I've always come back,' Jack said, so low Ianto almost missed it.
'But first, you left.'
Jack flinched and looked off down the beach. 'I... I didn't ask yesterday - didn't want to know, really – but... is there someone else in your life?' He let out a huff of poorly disguised nervous laughter. 'Someone who doesn't keep leaving, perhaps?'
'No,' Ianto said, his mood souring further as his last semi-exclusive lover's angry accusations rang in his ears once again. 'I'm the one who leaves now.'
Jack gave him a sharp look, and Ianto sighed. He sat up and picked a white shell out of the sand, pretending to examine the grooves corrugating the surface as he spoke. 'I was shattered when you went with the Doctor the first time. You fixed me as best you could after you came back, but when Tosh and Owen died, you weren't there. I had to put myself back together, and it was fucking hard work.'
Ianto tossed the shell towards the wet sand along the shoreline then pushed himself to his feet, brushing off his trousers. 'I'm not prepared to do that again, Jack, not for anyone, but especially not for you because I'm not actually sure I'd survive you breaking me all over again.'
Jack hastily scrambled to his feet, sending a plate of their leftovers somersaulting across the blanket. 'You won't have to. I'm not planning on leaving you...'
'You never do, Jack, and yet, it still happens.'
Ianto's heart ached at the sight of the misery on Jack's face, but he cleared his suddenly tight throat and gestured towards the picnic. 'I'll help pack up then you can walk me back to the office and tell me all about the royalty you debauched on your time away.'
'Just... tell me a story, Jack,' Ianto insisted, desperation threading his words as he threw their rubbish haphazardly into the basket. 'You're good at that. Tell me about all the people you've fucked since me, remind me of how you can't stay in the one place with the one person because your feet start itching and you can't breathe properly. Remind me of why I'm better off without you.'
Jack looked devastated, but, with his voice and hands shaking, he obligingly began to talk.